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Monday, September 1, 2014

Writing Inspiration for Every Day

Robert Benson: "Most of the time, writing a book more closely resembles digging a ditch than participating in some transcendent creative experience." (page 8)


Robert Benson offers his own insights to fellow writers.  He has done copy writing, written books, and even spent a year pretending to write a book.  This is not a how-to book with ten handy tips to overcome writer's block, but an account of one writer's experiences.

I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, many from famous writers.  My favorite chapter concerned three hats.  What?!? Yes, Benson wisely tells us there is a time to wear the artist's hat, a time to put on work clothes and edit, and a time to be the business manager.  Wearing the wrong hat for the day's task can sidetrack a writing project.

If you sometimes feel nobody understands your life as a writer (or as one who want to be a writer) you need to sit down with this book.  You will feel like you met a new friends who "gets it."

I received a free review copy of  Dancing on the Head of a Pen from Waterbrook publishers.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kids Ask Hard Questions


Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions is a resource for parents and others who work with children.  The mother and daughter team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson have put their heads together with Scripture to offer suggested answers for children's questions about death (including suicide) and life.  Each chapter begins with a question, gives adult answers to the question, and offers developmentally-appropriate answers for preschoolers, ages 5 to 10, and older children.

Topics addressed include divorce, natural disasters, sexual sins, Satan, and hell.  Difficult Bible stories are also covered.  Children deserve honest answers to their questions.  Our honesty shows them that our faith can stand up to difficulty.

I recommend this book to Sunday School directors, church libraries, and parents.  I received a free review copy of Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions from Bethany House.

Historical Fiction: Honor by Lyn Cote



Lyn Cote opens her new Quaker Brides series with a solid piece of historical fiction.  Honor is betrayed by her grandfather, cousin, and former love interest.  She and her companion, Royale, must find a way to survive as a disinherited plantation lady and a freed slave.  Their salvation comes in the form of a deaf man, a marriage of convenience, a trip on the Ohio River, and a new business.

Many tragedies and near-tragedies keep the reader on pins and needles.  Slave catchers, abolitionist journalists, brave Christians, apathetic neighbors, and lazy/corrupt public officials combine in a story that is the human story: fallen people trying to live together in community.

This novel is an excellent blend of fact and fiction.  Those who like their romantic fiction with more substance than fluff will enjoy this book.


I received a free copy of Honor from Tyndale publishers for my review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Management Books for Contrary Thinkers and Other Lifelong Learners


In my former life in consulting, I survived more management fads than I have fingers and toes. I read countless management books, many of them contradictory and some of them utterly ridiculous. I still read and review management/business books occasionally.  Here are five gems that I can truly recommend to thoughtful readers.
First, Break all the Rules
As soon as I read the title of this book, I purchased it and read it cover to cover. (I have a little problem with authority
J) Based on two studies done by the Gallup Organization, this book explains what successful managers do and what talented employees need. The answers fly in the face of many generally accepted management practices. For example, the most successful managers spend the most time with their most productive employees. They also give employees objectives, then turn them loose to achieve those objectives in whatever way they deem best. They can do this because they select their employees for talent.
The Ultimate Business Library
This book is a trip down memory lane, with short chapters devoted to fifty books that were each famous for a time. Remember The Third Wave, In Search of Excellence, and Up the Organization?Titles reviewed include The Prince, Principles of Scientific Management, and The Fifth Discipline. I enjoyed this book because the author seems to be as cynical about most management theory as I am.
Overachievement
This is more of a psychology book than a management book, but I found it fascinating. The author is a Ph.D. who has made it his work to study high achievers: athletes, lawyers, business managers, and students. Again, the findings question conventional wisdom. For instance, we assume high achievers work harder, always analyzing every move and studying every angle. Although hard work has its place, Dr. Eliot finds that great performers, when they are doing what they do best, are actually not thinking like that. They are focused only on what they are doing in the moment: playing the violin, hitting the baseball, or running fast. His discussion of the "training mindset" versus the "trusting mindset" is alone worth the price of the book.
Intellectual Capital
America has moved from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. Managers are trying to manage knowledge workers with the methods of the old economy-with limited success. Stewart offers a new way of thinking about employees by suggesting we use their minds as well as their hands. Learn how successful companies are harnessing the power of the intellectual capital in their organizations.
Generations at Work
The authors studied four generations of workers, whom they labeled: Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters. They describe the pivotal events in the formative years of each generation, e.g. World War II, Woodstock, the Challenger disaster. The different attitudes and work habits of each generation are explained and ideas are presented for getting different generations to work together.
Any of these five management books would truly be worth a few hours and a few dollars. There are no silly fads or psychobabble in these books; in fact, you will probably find they confirm your own experience and common sense.
References:
Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. (1999). First, break all the rules: What the world's greatest managers do differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Cranier, S. (1997). The ultimate business library: 50 books that shaped management thinking. New York: AMACOM.
Eliot, J. (2004). Overachievement: The new science of working less to accomplish more. New York: Penguin Group.
Stewart, T. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York: Doubleday.
Zemke, R., Raines, C. & Filipczak, B. (2000). Generations at work. New York: AMACOM.



Monday, August 25, 2014

A Book Review of The Israeli Solution by Caroline Glick


I am 51 years old.  Every president I can remember has tried to broker “peace in the middle east” and every one has failed.   Caroline Glick helps me understand why.  The two-state solution has been assumed to be the only solution for so long that most of us never consider the alternative--a one-state solution.
 
Glick deals one by one with the arguments against Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (with Israeli citizenship offered to Arabs living in those regions.)  Those Arabs who do not wish death to all Jews would benefit from the stability and civility of Israeli law compared to life under PLO terrorist rule.  Those Arabs who wish death to all Jews will never be content with any “solution” other than the total destruction of any Jewish state and its citizens.  The one-state solution would work for all those who truly want to live in peace, and would improve the economic well-being and physical safety of Arabs who chose to live as Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

This is an important book with historical perspective and practical analysis of demographics, economics, and other concerns.  The only way to improve this book, in my opinion, would be to include more and larger maps for those of us who are more visual learners.


I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Crown Forum, through the Blogging for Books program.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great Books for Long Flights or Other Long Waits


A book is a wonderful travel companion, especially when those inevitable delays happen. The top books I recommend to travelers are long enough to keep you entertained through hours of layovers. For reading on the plane or in a waiting room, the following are novels and nonfiction that will refresh your mind, spirit, or both.

For an especially long flight, say Los Angeles to Sydney or New York to Hong Kong, take along a copy of the paperback, 50th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This classic novel explores what happens when the productive people in a society disappear and those who mooch off them have to cope. The greatest musicians, philosophers, industrialists, and engineers are disappearing and the government is running out of wealth to confiscate. Men are destroying their wealth or leaving it to rot, then the men vanish without a trace. Can society cope without all those "greedy" men who provided jobs, transportation, and solutions to their problems? If you are a successful person who feels unappreciated, this book will make you cheer. Do take your reading glasses, though, because this paperback version is nearly a thousand pages of fine print.
For fans of J.R.R. Tolkein, an airplane trip is a great time to read The Silmarillion. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, this book is not a straight story; it is rather a "history" behind the story. Tolkein did not merely write a trilogy; he created an entire world, with languages and culture and history. The Silmarillion tells of the creation of Middle Earth, explains why elves and dwarfs don't usually get along with one another, and gives the genealogies of our favorite trilogy characters. Don't read this until you have read The Lord of the Rings, which is my third recommendation for travel reading. The trilogy is available in paperback and will last you through the longest of trips.
Always interesting is The Holy Bible. For history buffs, read I and II Samuel and I and II Kings for a survey of all the kings of Israel, or read Luke and Acts for a history of the early Christian church. For romance, read the book of Ruth for a sweet love story or the Song of Solomon for love poetry of the highest order. Esther is a story for those who want romance, intrigue, and history all in one package. Compact Bibles fit easily in a carry-on bag.
Finally, if you have a Vietnam veteran in your family or would simply like to have a better understanding of what some of those young men went through, you must read We Were Soldiers Once...and Young by Lt. General Hal Moore (USA-Ret.) and Joe Galloway. If you saw the movie starring Mel Gibson, you probably found yourself wondering about some of the characters and found yourself moved to tears by the suffering of the men and their families-and amazed at their heroic attempts to save one another. The book explores what went wrong, gives deeper insights into the lives of some of the men, and tells us what some of the survivors did after the war.

May all your travel be delay-free! However, these books are good enough that you might want a delay or two. You'll be glad to have any of these books in your carry-on bag, and your life will be richer for having read them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Missions on the Amazon: A Review of Wherever the River Runs


Kelly Minter has a gift for describing her experiences.  You will feel like you went along for the ride when she describes her first trip on the Amazon River and many other experiences among the people who live there.  She has a desire to share her love of the Amazon and its people, as well as God's great love for them.

Add this book to your library of mission stories at home and at church.  Comment on this blog post by August 20 and get an entry in a drawing to win a free copy of Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”